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Applied Theory Paper

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Jessica Goulart

April 5, 2017

SOC 400

Dr. Boydstun

Workers Values: Waiting Tables

Waiters are the foundation of the restaurant industry. Social interaction is becoming a lost art form in today’s technologically advanced society. Waiters work as a unit to provide a service to both the consumer and the capitalist for whom they work for. Marx’s ideal of capitalism would be non-existent without the individuals who sell their labor to the capitalists. However, these individuals do not simply exist in the workplace. Interpersonal bonds are formed within the restaurant industry and can be related to Weber’s theories as well. The social structure illustrated by the restaurant industry mimics the social construct of society itself.

        The restaurant industry is relevant on a national basis. Although considered by many to be a non-respectable industry to be employed in, it is “the second largest employer in the U.S. [and provides] jobs for nearly 11 million Americans” (Jayaraman 23). Although viewed as a non-career job, waiting tables has respectable attributes. It is part of “one of the country’s fastest-growing industries” (23). Those not employed in the restaurant industry have the common misconception that waiters make a lot of money; however, the reality is that waiters make less than the minimum wage salary because they are considered tipped employees. What this means is that employers can make the servers base wage “as low as $2.13 an hour” (23). Customers think that tips are a supplement to a salary wage; however, tips are the main source of income for the server. Each restaurant is unique and the income that each server receives per shift has the tendency to fluctuate from day-to-day. For example, a server could work a very busy lunch shift on Monday and make $100; however, there is no guarantee that the same server will make $100 the following Monday. This is due to an ever-changing demand within the community that supplies the restaurant with business. There are several factors that could determine a server’s fluctuating “salary” that comes from tipped wages: influx of customers, reduction of customers, and variation of tip percentages given, as well as several other variables that may occur within the restaurant (poor food or service quality).

        Some workers in the restaurant industry utilize waiting tables as a full-time job; however, some only seek part-time employment in an industry as this. The capitalist’s need for different types of employees is satisfied by the workers’ need to make daily income. According to Marx, “capitalism requires a mass of individuals who must sell their labor power, and the only relevance wage-workers have for the capitalists is the extent to which they can be used (employed) to produce profit for the capitalist” (Dillon 44). These different types of employees provide the capitalist with varying hours of labor; however, the standards for each employee are to be the same. Essentially, an employee is no longer valuable if they cannot carry their own weight and support the capitalist’s ideals of providing consumers with a service. Employees lose their value whenever they fail to show up to work and consistently make mistakes, thus creating a non-functioning work environment. As Dillon states in The Introduction to Sociological Theory, “In capitalist society, the capitalists . . . care about workers only insofar as they have use-value, the extent to which they can be put to use producing something useful, something that results in producing capital and profit for the capitalists” (45). Therefore, employees become unnecessary whenever they fail to carry out their required duties. As long as the capitalist sees that there is a need for workers, there will always be workers. In the restaurant industry, workers are expendable and the turn-over rate can be rather high. Having a high turn-over rate can affect the quality of the service that is provided to the consumer and disrupts the interpersonal bond that is created between a server and a regular consumer. The capitalist sees the importance of the interpersonal relations that occur between the employee and the consumer, that is why they employ people versus technology. However, the technological advances being made could one day make waiters obsolete in the restaurant industry. The bright side about switching over to technology would be the dismissal of outdated gender role ideals.

        Gender roles play an important part in the restaurant industry too. According to Boushey” Capitalism is, by its very nature, an oppressive process that breeds inequality” (172).  When observing gender roles in a restaurant environment, there are noticeable differences between the front of house staff and the back of house staff. Often, employers see it more fit to employ women as servers and males as the food handlers. Women in restaurants are discriminated for just being a woman. According to Boushey, “work on labor market discrimination has found that the ascriptive characteristics of gender and race are determining factors in wages and employment” (172). Employers are subject to gender discrimination when forcing male and females into their respective gender roles. The idea that women should be serving the food and that men should be performing the manual labor is an outdated concept. The difference in the wages is that the kitchen workers have a set salary while the waiters do not. There are several factors that affect a server’s daily income, therefore making it impossible to know how much they will make at any given time. What is the difference between a male server and a female server waiting on customers? There is no difference other than the fact that the human being is classified as a male or female. A female can also work in the kitchen and produce the same quality of food as a male. Women and men can do the same amount of work and provide the same quality of labor. Each member has an important role; however, that role should not be determined by gender alone. The employees work as a unit, thus becoming strengthened by their relations amongst one another.



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